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5 Podcasts That Inspire Creativity

I feel like we’ve gotten to the point where we can no longer listen to podcasts leisurely on a long road trip (think of Serial when you first heard it, or any number of mysteries solved over many, many episodes) if we are entrepreneurs of any kind. It feels as if we need to now use every spare moment to hone our skills, refine our brand, develop new funnels, join mastermind groups and listen to seven marketing podcasts a week just to stay current.

I feel that pressure and I actively try to ignore it and intuitively find my way to podcasts that tell me a great story (I love a good story unfolding over long drive up to SF!) and that inspire me. Because ultimately, any company you launch requires you to be a great storyteller and very creative in how you approach nearly every aspect of your business.

These five podcasts have been inspiring me lately, so I thought I’d share:

  • Creative Mornings – I remember going to my first CreativeMornings talk in downtown LA years ago and feeling as if I’d found my people. I had perceived the community to be small then, accessible. I had just started my own agency and I had unconventional hours and needed to connect with creatives who could help deliver for my clients. I loved those talks and I love this collection of talks from people I greatly admire. Worth your time – even if you cherry pick episodes based on topic or speaker.
  • 99% Invisible – Every. Single. Episode. Teaches me something I had no idea I didn’t know. Not all of the information is necessary to run your business or nab your next client, but it is pretty amazing how many things are part of our daily lives that we simply take for granted. But someone, at a specific time and for a specific reason, made the thing you pass every day on your way to work or the thing you take for granted as “just part of life.” And it’s kind of incredible to understand the story behind those things.
  • Bookworm – I was a lit major (which so many of you don’t know) and for a long time, I was a book blogger and covered “all things bookish” in LA for LAist. I’ve always been a writer and I always will be at heart. I find writers discussing their novels to be fascinating – from the conception of characters and plot structure to what shaped them as artists. Michael Silverblatt drives me a little nuts most of the time, and this is less of a podcast/more of a show, and this may feel far afield as a podcast for inspiring creativity in your business,but I always find myself thinking about things differently after an episode.
  • Smart People Podcast – I love to pick episodes that interest me, but mostly I love to listen in order because I end up listening to a speaker about a topic that I never would have sought out and it opens up my thinking in an entirely new way.
  • Heroine – I was only recent introduced to this podcast so I’ve been devouring the episodes. They are all women and all inspiring. Their stories of circuitous career trajectories and how they handle creative blocks and how they’ve learned to become leaders are powerful and inspiring. The interviews are with women I admire greatly – some of whom I’ve even worked with. I can’t recommend this one enough. Truly.

I hope these inspire you and help get you out of feeling like you have to listen to umpteen million “professional” podcasts so you can be a proper founder. Would also love to hear what you’re listening to and how it inspires your work.

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Whether you run your own business or work at a company that has remote employees, you have likely had at least one person on a recent project that is not in your physical location for most of your time working together. This is the nature of the gig economy we are currently living in. So the question isn’t why? It’s how. How do I manage a remote team and over-deliver on all my projects and revenue projections?

I’ve managed remote teams for years – on extremely complicated projects and really short, simple ones – and I’ve developed a few key rules that ensure communication is clear, deadlines are set and met and everyone gets the attention they need to thrive.

  • What kind of manager are you? Be honest. Several managers who are uncomfortable with remote employees don’t ever seem to get comfortable with it — they want to see their team members every day and if they can’t see them working, they will always wonder if they really are working. Other managers have a certain collaborative style in which they’d like to pull people into meetings all the time, throughout the day, for quick brainstorms and check-ins. Do you know what type of manager you are? What type of communication you need to feel work is getting done and the team is being productive? This is key to setting up your remote team. If you need a lot of FaceTime, daily video chats with your entire team will be vital. If you trust your team and want to manage to deadlines and deliverables as your measure of success, task management systems like Asana and quick, easy communication tools like Slack may be all you need.
  • Clearly document expectations, deadlines and deliverables. If you scope the work clearly, communicate it clearly and have systems in place to track progress regularly, you can manage anyone remotely for years and have great success. The key here is “clearly.” What is clear to you may not be clear to others. Err on the side of over communication and give team members ample opportunities to ask questions before they get started. Since they can’t just walk over to your desk and ask you, be sure to clarify those early steps of a project so when they are off and working, there’s no ambiguity about what’s expected and by when. Let those guidelines and systems help your team deliver rather than you micro-managing them because you can’t see them. No one likes that.
  • Be human. Though you don’t see each other as you fix your lunch in the office kitchen or as you wait for the elevator each morning, it’s important to check in with your team members about human stuff often. How was their weekend? How was their vacation? What are their plans for the holidays? Remember their birthdays. Their children’s names. And listen to them when they share their answers. It’s important and provides that human connection.
  • Meet in person whenever you can. I’ve managed so many people remotely that we eventually learn a shorthand with each other and communication and expectations are even easier. But that takes a long time to establish. I’ve found the most critical times to meet in person are at the beginning, during big sprints on a big project and as you are nearing the final stages of something. This builds instant rapport, it helps with the being human bit and it gives you a real sense of how best to work with the new person you’ve brought on to the team. I like to use these in person meetings to figure out what makes them tick and agree together what mode of communication works best for when we are remote.
  • Hold your team accountable. When deadlines have been missed or the quality of work delivered is not where it needs to be, you need to be clear and direct and firm with your remote team. You don’t need to belabor the point, but because you are not all in the same room, sometimes it can be difficult for a team to palpably feel the disappointment. When noting how a team has fallen short, remember to end that meeting with clear goals about how to course-correct. You want to be firm but you also don’t want your remote team to despair so much that they lose a day of work disconnected from others and concerned.
  • Hire great people who thrive remotely. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve hired the wrong people for remote jobs several times. They believe they want to work remotely and manage their day on their own. They believe they want to focus on work and not engage with co-workers for hours at a time. But once they get into the role, they realize they really miss having lunch with people. And chatting in between meetings. And planning happy hours and outings together. Some people are made for working remotely and others are not. Hire amazing people who are self-motivated and professional and know themselves well enough to know that they can thrive working remotely.
  • Give praise where praise is due. Effusively. With such clear expectations and deliverables and systems in place to manage it all remotely, it can be a little too easy to improperly celebrate big wins. Huge projects completed. New accounts won. Big goals met. Go out of your way to celebrate those wins as a team to let your team know you really see them, really appreciate them and value their work.

What other systems have you found helpful in managing teams remotely? Would love to hear them!

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How to Figure Out What You’re Really Good At

You’ve seen all the Pinterest quotes. You’ve screenshot-ed several Instagram stories about it. You’ve puzzled over this idea while also aspiring to embody it: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” We are constantly told to do what we love. But what if we don’t know what we love?

What no one ever says in all the pressure to “hustle” and be a “girl boss” is: how the heck do you figure out what you’re really good at? And then how do you turn that into a job? A job you could really love?

Here are some tried and true tips, suggestions, exercises and places to start sorting what you’re great at and could turn into a really amazing business or job:

    • What are your go-to survival skills? What life skills have been your go-to when things get tough? What skills have gotten you out of jams, helped you excel when you had too much work on your plate in college or a lot of family stress? Those go-to skills are an indicator of what you’re good at. Even if you’ve never had a job that utilized these skills, identify them and start to think about what jobs would tap into these skills that you possess in spades.
    • What work comes easiest/do you always tackle first? Think back over to all the work you’ve done so far in your life. Of all the projects you’ve been a part of, all the clients you’ve helped, all the meetings you’ve been in, all the presentations you’ve put together – what do you enjoy the most? We gravitate towards the work we know we can deliver easily because it comes naturally to us. What parts of your work would you do all day if you could? Those are your strengths.
    • What work do you wish you never had to do again? Though every job has parts we don’t enjoy, as you think back through all the work you love, it’s just as important to think about work you really would prefer never to do again. Part of figuring out what you’re good at is understanding what you aren’t good at. Hate spreadsheets and accounting? Good to know. Not a fan of data and statistics? That tells you a lot. Terrified when you have to write a brief? Speak in front of a group of peers? These are all indicators of work you don’t want to do and are likely not as good at.
    • Do you regularly get a certain compliment and brush it aside? Think back over your life and interactions with others From when you were young all the way up to right now. Is there a through line of the type of complements you receive that you tend to ignore? We brush off complements for things we know we are good at or find unremarkable in ourselves. Whatever those qualities are – we brush them off because they come so easily to us. Figure out what those are and you’ll be closer to knowing what you’re not just good at, but great at.

Many of us have ended up in jobs we don’t love and we aren’t even aware that part of the reason we don’t love our jobs is because we don’t use our strengths on the job. Or we only use a fraction of our strengths. And if we are promoted for the other bits? We end up doing yet more work we don’t love. And once you are at a certain salary and position earning a great living but doing work you don’t love it’s really hard to stop for a moment, listen to yourself, and realize you aren’t happy because you are doing work that is really hard for you as it doesn’t play to your strengths.

So instead of following along with the “find work you love” quotes and theories, I’m a firm believer in sorting what you are really good at first and then using that list to inform the kind of work you want to do for income. Because no one loves a job that forces them to do work all day they struggle with. Excelling at work is a part of “loving” it.

I’ve spent far too much of my career doing high-paid work that I can’t stand. Once I understood my strengths and what I’d really prefer to do all day, it shifted the entire game for me. I want the same for you.

Get out there and figure out your strengths!

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